Thursday, March 16, 2006

Juggler Wars!

OK.  So, if you click on this link, you'll see a video of a dude named Chris Bliss, juggling to a Beatles tune. 

Bliss's video, the attention it is getting, and, apparently, the fact that Chris Bliss continues to breathe air, annoy a fellow named Jason Garfield.  Garfield is quite a good juggler and he believes that what Bliss does ... isn't.  He rants about Bliss on this page here and he has gone to the trouble of creating a video he calls "the bliss Diss" (his failure to capitalize Bliss's name is intentional, but his rationale for this escapes me). 

Now, in his rant, Garfield says "You can play any song that I've never heard, and I could juggle three balls to it and make up the choreography as I went along and it would look similar to the chris bliss routine except there would be difficult tricks and I wouldn't look like Leslie Neilson."  This is not, however, what he does in his video.  In his video -- which you can see over here -- he takes the same audio track from Bliss's video (complete with Bliss's audience applauding in places) and choreographs his own routine -- a five-ball routine, which is apparently intended to both blow Bliss out of the water and parody him simultaneously.  (Garfield explains that he could choreograph an original five-ball routine to this music, but that isn't his goal.  His goal seems to be doing exactly what Bliss does, but doing it with five balls.)

There's a comment thread running under his video, and the comments are widely diverse in terms of which video they prefer.

For my part, I really wonder whether Garfield could do as he claims and actually choreograph a comparable routine -- with either three or five balls.  As it stands, his routine (and his rant) seem to show a remarkable lack of understanding of the artistry involved in Bliss's video.  At one point, Garfield notes:  "A perfect example of how little people know about juggling is that one of his strongest audience response points was when he JUST juggled the BASIC pattern. Something I could get ANYONE with basic motor skills, not even great ones, to do in under an hour. BUT, he did it when the music got soft and went just to piano, so it went with the music."  I see his point (well, ok, it took me several hours to learn the basic pattern, so I wonder what that says about me) -- but still, Bliss juggles three balls in a basic pattern and the audience loves it.  Why?  Because the music is running pretty quick at this point and Bliss is hitting each ball on each beat of the music.  When Garfield does it with five balls, he's got to throw two out of each hand at once.  It's undeniably more difficult, but the extra balls keep it from being as clean as Bliss's, and therefore it isn't a direct interpretation of the music.

Garfield ends his rant with: "If you watch the ice skating competitions in the Olympics, I don't think you're going to appreciate some douche bag skating in circles and tapping his toes, chipping out pieces of ice to the beat of a Beetles song."  (He's so polite, isn't he?  And misspelling "Beatles" ain't gonna win him any friends over here.)  The funny thing is, I think ice skating is actually the perfect metaphor here.  If you've ever had the pleasure of watching, say, Underhill & Martini skate to "Unchained Melody" (a still photo from that is here -- use your imagination), you know that they can do with a bunch of lifts and a throw-axel and heck of a lot more than a lot of other skaters can do with triple-twists and side-by-side jumps.

Garfield is undeniably skilled.  But it isn't just skill that impresses an audience, but what you do with what skills you've got.

1 comment:

kipler said...

I completely agree with your analysis. Jason Garfield's video simply doesn't have that enigmatic "it" that Bliss's video does.  ::Shrug::  

I can applaud Garfield's artistry, but don't enjoy watching it nearly as much as I do Bliss's.  And I agree that the three ball routine allows the moves to be more closely tied to the music, and also allows Bliss to fall into the moment.  Garfield never even approaches that peculiar bliss of artistry.